From the Editor, February 2020February 7, 2021
I’m very fortunate to be living, even if only temporarily, in an international dark sky reserve. The night skies are a stark contrast to those above my former home, deep in the suburban sprawl of a major city. I’ve seen things here that I’d never before seen with the naked eye: such the Magellanic clouds and two globular clusters.
I may lament the skies under which I spent my formative years, yet they were far from the least luminescent that the modern world has to offer. I, at least, could see some stars, whereas light pollution in some cites has worsened to the point that their inhabitants could be forgiven for never looking up: they have no chance to be awed by the possibility of unimaginable wonders that the universe might offer, and be utterly humbled by the truly minuscule nature of our place within it.
It’s a terrible tragedy, but it’s also a shamefully human-centric one. The true harm caused by the callous overuse of artificial light runs much deeper, and affects species other than ours in much more serious ways. Ana Marković has looked into this problem, and the things she’s discovered should, I believe, be of concern to all.
It has been a great pleasure this year for me to able to present more stories than ever before. Christina De La Rocha has discussed why fighting climate requires more than just the actions of the individual. In the war on plastic, Deogracias has covered Malawi’s production ban, now upheld by the country’s Court of Appeals; and S. Mathur highlighted the successes and future of The Ocean Clean-up, an ambitious project aimed at addressing the issue of plastic in our oceans.
In other departments, Maruša Romih has explored our global progress, or lack of thereof, towards equalising the income gender gap, and has explored the current state of the reduction of carbon emissions. Jeanne Yacoubou has broken down the numbers concerning climate change in 2019, and we’ve seen how Miami is fighting against sea-level rise.
Finally, we’ve seen the destruction and rehabilitation of the beaches in Boracay, Phillipines, and the horrific plastic problem faced by Indonesia; offset by some, hopefully more uplifting, travel guides, intended to aid those who wish to experience the world without adding to the harm that we as a species have already caused, and a new section dedicated to a personal love, gardening.
Once again, thank you for joining us.
About the feature image: Messier 13 – the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules Located in the armpit of the constellation Hercules, M13 is one of the best known globular clusters in the northern hemisphere. Discovered by Edmond Halley (for whom the comet is named) in 1714 and cataloged by Charles Messier in 1764, it’s a cluster of several hundred thousand closely grouped stars. The stars are about 100 times more densely packed than in our area of the galaxy. It’s estimated to be approximately 22.2 thousand light years away, with a diameter of 145 light years. The galaxy in the upper right is NGC 6207, which is about 30 million light years away and 34,000 light years across. Globular clusters reside in the halo of a galaxy as opposed to the disk and are bound together by gravitational forces. There are about 150 known globular clusters in the Milky Way, with an estimated 20 more hidden by dust lanes. They are generally comprised of very old stars, and M13 is estimated to be 11.65 billion years old. The process in which globular clusters are created is largely unknown, but it’s hypothesized that they originate from areas of starburst activity and interactions between galaxies. There is no known active star formation in any of theses clusters, but due to the proximity of the stars collisions occur, and new stars are created. These new stars are called “blue stragglers”, some of which may be seen in the photo. The proximity of the stars (on average about one light year apart) also creates many binary star systems (think Tatooine), but due to the age and makeup of the stars there are very few with planets. This is about 3:15 hours of exposure.